The Justice Department successfully convinced a federal judge that when the White House announced that President Trump was declassifying certain documents from the Russia investigation, he didn’t actually declassify the materials.
U.S. District Judge Amit P. Mehta ruled in the Justice Department’s favor Tuesday, in a case brought by media outlets seeking unredacted versions of the DOJ applications to surveil ex-Trump campaign advisor Carter Page. The Justice Department has resisted removing the redactions in part it because it has claimed some parts of the applications remain classified and thus not covered by the Freedom of Information Act.
The challengers countered with a September 2018 press release from then-White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders that said that Trump had “directed” that the Page warrants be declassified.
At an earlier stage in the proceedings, Mehta had said that the press release was ambiguous enough for the case to move forward, while the judge rejected a DOJ request to resolve the case in its favor then.
Since then, the Justice Department filed a declaration from a top DOJ official claiming that the department never actually received a declassification order after Sanders’ statement. The declaration said that after it consulted with the White House, it was informed that no such order requiring immediate declassification of the documents existed.
“DOJ’s declaration now makes clear that the Press Release was not a declassification order,” Judge Mehta explained, denying the media outlets the unredacted documents.
Read the opinion below: